Since 2007 I’ve been living my personal Holy Grail – that of a freelance developer working remotely from home.
This, like most worthwhile things in life, has taken a large dollop of discipline, reliable broadband and at least one pair of decent pyjamas.
Over the years I’ve honed my Mon-Fri routine to the following :
06:00-07:30 – Get up and start working immediately on my “side-project”.
I find doing this non-client work a great way to prevent the inevitable build up of resentment that comes from always working for other people.
It also edges me closer to a very long term goal of living off the profits of my side-projects whilst sharpening the saw as I use these projects to experiment with things outside my comfort zone.
07:30-08:30 – Shower and breakfast.
Probably not a good time to multitask.
After breakfast with the family we’ll usually watch a tiny bit of TV together before they set off for school, largely so we know that they are (a) appropriately dressed and (b) locatable at a moments notice.
Time permitting I’ll do a quick “Morning Surf” of RSS feeds and Hacker News, with the longer reads shunted off to Pocket for when I have more time, finishing up with a quick scan of my Inbox for anything urgent and important.
08:30-10:00 – Work Block 1/4
Here is where the “real” working day starts. I work 6 billable hours per working day divided into 4 blocks of 90m. This is the first block.
Normally i’ve got a good idea of what needs to be done as a lot of my work is for regular clients, but if it’s a new client and a short project this first block is usually the boring setup of a local copy of their environment, getting access to code, etc.
During a ‘block’ I’m totally focused on the client’s project – I turn off all notifications except email messages from the current client via judicious use of Mail.app’s VIP settings,
10:00-10:30 – Reading Break
A small break from client work spent reading programming/business type books.
It’s been a long time since I read any fiction but it’s something I’m looking at getting back into.
10:30-12:00 – Work Block 2/4
Probably my “peak performance” block due to my usual morning influx of caffeine. One day I’ll prove that time undoubtedly speeds up during this interval.
12:00-12:30 – Lunch with my wife.
Highlight of the day – a peaceful, at least during term-time, half-hour catching up with my better half.
12:30-14:00 – Work Block 3/4
It’s all downhill from here. In a good way.
14:00-14:30 – Rubbing Virtual Shoulders
30 minutes of watching screencasts, YouTube programming videos, etc. away from my regular desk.
One thing that petrifies me about remote work is that of of slowly becoming obsolete – and worse still, would I even know?
Catching up with the latest conference talks and technical trends makes me feel part of the community. In the absence of rubbing shoulders daily with other developers in an office this is a vital part of my day.
14:30-16:00 – Work Block 4/4
The home stretch, the final 90m client block of the day.
The last 20 minutes or so will be spent constructing an email to the client summarising the day’s events / next actions, although this is sometimes not required for regular clients who know to check up on Basecamp/Trello to track progress.
16:00-17:00 – Shutdown Tasks
Client work is over, so now I start on my time boxed “Shutdown Tasks” to cleanly bring closure to the day. Currently these are :
- log Invoice data for work done today
- clear Inbox to Zero
- plan tomorrow
- scan personal To Do list for Tasks / Do Anything Urgent
- check Job Boards for Remote Work opportunities (fortunately I haven’t had to do this for quite a while as I’ve been living off referral / repeat work, but this was a time-sink, and took up the majority of this shutdown task time)
- if time left, work on some small To Do items
After 5pm I’ll generally not use a computer again unless absolutely necessary until the morning, and try to focus on relaxing/spending time with my family. This can cause pangs of guilt that I should be doing something more “productive” but Planet Burnout is not somewhere I like to visit too often.
So there you have it. I’m sure it seems highly regimented to some people, and the ‘free’ in freelance might be somewhat lost along the way, but I find the rhythm of the 90m blocks followed by a 30m break suits my energy levels well.
One obvious improvement would be the consistent introduction of exercise and/or getting out of the house on week days. I’m still searching for the best approach here – I’ve tried many methods but none have stuck, so I’m mindful that I’m currently a few tweaks away from an ideal schedule.
Anyway, I’m overly curious about other people’s routines, so would love to hear about your system, especially if you are a fellow remote worker.